Tanny

Tanaquil Le Clercq

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actually i'm fairly certain about this Mary Allen, i acquired a number of items from her estate over time and she was apparently a devoted ballet fan, responsible, if mem. serves for the hand-produced fanzine, TANNY, that was produced for a few 'issues' and of which i have one.

she was evidently close to a number of dancers a number of whom signed photos etc. for her.

i'm not sure if she was New Yorker or not...

What did this handmade fanzine about Tanny look like, rg? You are so lucky to have one of them.

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the mag is charmingly amateurish in production.

its text portions - captions of photos, running commentary and a little statement by Le Clercq herself, about her working day, if i recall correctly - is typed - probably carbon paper was responsible for the 'multiple' printing(s). the cover has hand-coloring and maybe hand-made cut-outs and is put together, if mem. serves, with construction paper covers.

i say 'if mem. serves' b/c my copy is now away in storage since a recent move and i haven't accessed it recently. i have no idea how many issues were made, nor, right now what the date of my copy might be.

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the mag is charmingly amateurish in production.

its text portions - captions of photos, running commentary and a little statement by Le Clercq herself, about her working day, if i recall correctly - is typed - probably carbon paper was responsible for the 'multiple' printing(s). the cover has hand-coloring and maybe hand-made cut-outs and is put together, if mem. serves, with construction paper covers.

i say 'if mem. serves' b/c my copy is now away in storage since a recent move and i haven't accessed it recently. i have no idea how many issues were made, nor, right now what the date of my copy might be.

How nice. Thanks for the description.

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FYI: I'm on the lookout for a decent hi-res digital image of a Balanchine/NYCB portrait shot that appears in the American Masters Balanchine documentary (photographer not known to me). Le Clercq is wearing her La Valse "black" costume (except with the white opera gloves), and Tallchief is on the other side of Mr. B (not sure of her costume's origins):

balanchine_portrait.jpg

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For some time, I've been trying to track down the exact date in 1944 on which Balanchine's "Resurgence" was performed at the Waldorf Astoria for the March of Dimes benefit. Of course, I have found hundreds of references to the event, itself, and Balanchine's feeling that it cast a pall over Tanaquil Le Clercq; but nowhere have I seen the month and day of the event mentioned. Does anyone here know? I also wonder if this was a matinee, or an evening performance. Some of the references I've seen state that the benefit took place in 1946, but as Tanny was 15 years old when Balanchine created the ballet on her, the correct year would have to have been 1944. I am trying to correlate some facts for a bit of research I'm doing. Thank you!

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For some time, I've been trying to track down the exact date in 1944 on which Balanchine's "Resurgence" was performed at the Waldorf Astoria for the March of Dimes benefit. Of course, I have found hundreds of references to the event, itself, and Balanchine's feeling that it cast a pall over Tanaquil Le Clercq; but nowhere have I seen the month and day of the event mentioned. Does anyone here know? I also wonder if this was a matinee, or an evening performance. Some of the references I've seen state that the benefit took place in 1946, but as Tanny was 15 years old when Balanchine created the ballet on her, the correct year would have to have been 1944. I am trying to correlate some facts for a bit of research I'm doing. Thank you!

The Balanchine Foundation has the Resurgence date as January 22, 1946:

http://balanchine.org/balanchine/display_result.jsp?num=231

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Tanny writing, with Mourka the cat 'helping':

31d364f4b3c98d3921bcafeaa0a22c7a.jpg

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Thank you, pherank--this last photo is even more magical.

I think the costumes in the astounding NYCB photo you showed earlier are:

Hayden in DIvertimento no. 15 (Caracole at that time)

Kaye in Lilac Garden

Tallchief in Swan Lake

Le Clercq in La Valse, of course

and I think Adams in some Tudor ballet he did for her.

can't identify Reed's....

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I think the costumes in the astounding NYCB photo you showed earlier are:

Hayden in DIvertimento no. 15 (Caracole at that time)

Kaye in Lilac Garden

Tallchief in Swan Lake

Le Clercq in La Valse, of course

and I think Adams in some Tudor ballet he did for her.

can't identify Reed's....

Thanks very much for those details, Jsmu. Considering how great a publicity image it is, I'm amazed that there seems to be no record of this image on the Internet. The photographer might be someone like Baron, or Walter E. Owen, but there's something about the setup that reminds me of Cecil Beaton. I'm guessing it was done for a magazine like LIFE.

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Those are terrific--love the one of her sitting on the chair in Western costume.

That photo (and yes it does look like Beaton doesn't it? among other things, everyone looks great at the same time--a RARITY, lol)

appears in the excellent Chujoy book The New York City Ballet (Knopf, 1953) which also has lots of other great photos

not appearing most other places and some very interesting commentary by various people involved in NYCB...

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Those are terrific--love the one of her sitting on the chair in Western costume.

That photo (and yes it does look like Beaton doesn't it? among other things, everyone looks great at the same time--a RARITY, lol)

appears in the excellent Chujoy book The New York City Ballet (Knopf, 1953) which also has lots of other great photos

not appearing most other places and some very interesting commentary by various people involved in NYCB...

Excellent! You've made my day with that info, Jsmu.

I've noticed that there are various mostly out-of-print publications from the 50s through 70s on the subject of the NYCB, but it's hard to know which are worth seeking out. I've found one great one at the library: George Platt Lynes, "Ballet". A really awesome set of photos.

And...I just happened to notice that someone had put together a nice slideshow of Tanny photos - a few I haven't seen before...(note: at the end you'll see a link to a Suzanne Farrell slideshow by the same poster - that's very nice too)

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Here's a scan of the image in the Anatole Chujoy book, New York City Ballet from 1953 (it's a small halftone image in the book). The pose is different from the one that appears in the Balanchine documentray film, but it is definitely from the same series of shots. The Chujoy book only remarks that the bulk of the photographs are from "George Platt-Lynes and Walter E. Owen". These days each image would have to have a credit.

nycb_w_choreographers.png

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an interesting snippet about her relationship with Jerome Robbins, also in Sym C you can see Maria Tallchief. They danced so fast!

https://www.youtube....h?v=cTb9_pGwR9g

Thanks very much for finding this clip. I always thought it interesting that the Robbins documentary has much more personal information, and talk about Tanny, than the Balanchine documentary for American Masters - that one's devoid of any personal relationship talk. Robbins felt Le Clercq was his muse (as she was for Balanchine obviously). It's too bad the last little bit about Tanny is missing from this clip.

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I added the ending and re-uploaded the video:

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And now for the hard part: I'd like to begin adding various quotes that talk about Le Clercq the person, as well as the dancer...

From Jacques d’Amboise, I Was A Dancer -

"At Madame Seda’s school, my sister was the best dancer, by far. At SAB, the classes were filled with her equals, and a star among them was a long-limbed teenager named Tanaquil LeClercq. Everyone knew Tanny was special. Before Tanny, George Balanchine had drawn inspiration from a chain of dancers: Tamara Geva, Alexandra Danilova, Tamara Toumanova, Irina Baronova, Vera Zorina, Marie-Jeanne, and Maria Tallchief. All of them were short, fast, virtuoso dancers. Tanny was different. She was elongated and stretched out, and fascinating to watch, an elegant praying mantis, but in no way predatory. Balanchine’s aesthetic changed with Tanny. She was to become the new prototype for his ideal dancer-long neck, small head, and mile-long limbs.

'She's too skinny!' the Boss [nickname for Jacques' mother Georgiana] would announce to Tanny's mother, Edith LeClercq. 'She should eat more!' Boss always had something to say to the cabal of ballet mothers. Presided over by Edith, they would sit and gossip in the hall outside the studios during their children's ballet classes, the Boss moving among them like a ferret.

It was from Edith that the Boss found out about the King-Coit School, an after-school program run by two little old ladies in a town house they owned together. They were prim Victorians, and created a place where kindergarten play and games were taken to a sophisticated performing-arts level. Tanny was enrolled, and I don't know how the Boss swung it, but she had Madeleine and me enrolled as well, on scholarships. The town house teemed with activity-plays, recitals, poetry readings, dramatic recitations, costume making, anything in the performing arts that tickled Miss King and Miss Coit’s fancy. Over the course of some six months, we performed in little vignettes, variety shows, all forgotten by me-with one exception. In that recital, I played a sailor dancing a hornpipe with two belles. The teenage Tanny was on the same program, but the star was a plump little girl, a pasty-faced dumpling with red pouty lips, who recited a poem. Her voice, strident and ear-scraping, would cut through an Alaskan oil slick taster than carbolic acid. That voice is so ingrained in the memories of King-Coit alumni that, fifty years later, I could pick up the phone, call Tanny, and, mimicking THE VOICE, screech, ‘Eat little hird and think no more of sorrow! ‘ and Tanny would immediately parrot the next line, ‘I'll feed you every day at this time!’ Then, amid laughter, she would quip, ‘Are you soliciting me for an invitation to dinner?’”

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“After Balanchine's stormy parting from Maria Tallchief (an annulment, on the grounds that she wanted a baby--he didn’t), he soon married Tanny. The stick-skinny, gawky teenager, Nymph to my childhood Puck, had blossomed into an exquisite, witty, sophisticated princess. Balanchine had watched and nurtured her for years, intrigued by her talent. Through her teens, he choreographed for her, and waited. She had captured the eyes and heart of the king. They married December 31, 1952.

The Balanchines included us in their family life. Routinely, Tanny would say, “Come over for dinner. We’ll play cards after." As it was the fifties, steak every night was the norm. Porterhouse, rare, served with Dijon mustard, a salad of romaine lettuce with a dressing of olive-oil, lemon, and garlic, and new potatoes roasted in their skin with butter, parsley, and rosemary. This was the usual menu Tanny chose and chef Balanchine served. Her wit, barbed and directed at everything and anyone (including herself), was unpredictable, yet veined with affection. Having decided on the dinner menu, she would announce, “Oh! This again?" Delivered with mock surprise and a hint of indignation. Dessert was never anything but ice cream. “I thought we'd have something new,” Tanny would declare. Mouton Rothschild was the wine--two bottles in the course of an evening. I was responsible for the downing of one. 'Have another glass,' Tanny would quip. 'Here, let me pour it for you.' Then, turning to Balanchine, she’d add, 'If he does, George, we're sure to win, even with you as my card partner.' After dinner, Balanchine would sit, patiently playing endless rounds of canasta. Sometimes, either from boredom or just to pique an outburst from Tanny, he would throw down a wrong card, dissolving her strategy.

During the next day's rehearsal, Tanny would pick up from the night before. She’d draw away from me, dramatically, as I partnered her. ’Do I detect a little purple staining the whites of your ballet shoes? Jacques, I can’t believe it! You’re sweating wine!’”*

* We loved to eat, Tanny and I; dancing kept us slim, so the sky's the limit on the cuisine. Tanny even did a cookbook where different ballet friends gave their favorite recipes. I gave her a stack and most of them ended up in her book. The number of mine she included is second only to Balanchine's.

--Jacques d’Amboise, I Was A Dancer

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Edwin Denby writing about the NYCB company during the 1950s -

"...Moncion I saw act too little to speak of any change. Hayden and Laing, formerly very fine in a tense and even overwrought style of acting, now seemed feeling their way toward a calmer and larger kind, such as Kaye and Robbins use. Together with the acting that Tallchief and Le Clercq show, it looks as if the NYC would welcome a simple and steady kind of acting whenever it begins to show.

Tallchief though weak in adagio, strikes me as the most audacious and the most correctly brilliant of allegro classicists. She can lift a ballet by an entrance, and she has flashes of a grand decision that are on ballerina scale. What I missed seeing was that expressive radiance which makes beautiful not only the ballerina herself; but the whole company with her, and the whole drab area of stage space and bright imaginary world of the ballet that visibly and invisibly surrounds her--a gently indomitable radiance that is a classical ballerina's job, and that several times in my life I have seen a dancer accomplish. Le Clercq has a heavenly radiance and a lovely adagio, but neither has been trained to spread indomitably. Her New York elegance of person, her intelligence in every movement, the delicacy of her rhythmic attack we all adore. Adams has a perfect action the best adagio, a ravishing figure, and a sweet manner that is our equivalent of your 'county.' Wilde has a beautiful Veronese grandeur and plasticity of shape in her dancing, a glorious jump; and Hayden has a Lautrec edge and vehement stab and a strange softness in her she seems to hate: a great actress, I would guess, if she learns calm. They are all in Caracole, each with a line as pure as a great ballerina’s, and as characteristic as a great horse’s in a horse show. And intent little Reed with the heart of gold--but individuals isn’t what this letter is about, as I said to begin with. I love them all."

Edwin Denby from a review of Roma -

"The strictness of classicism in Roma and the strictness of the musical setting of the steps show the nuance of dance impulse more clearly. Dancers classically trained find in classicism a theatrical spontaneity and transparency. The expression of their dance can look sincere. And their personal quality in classicism--unconsciously transparent--can become a view of what the stage character represented is like 'really.' So for intance Le Clercq’s delicacy of timing can give her characters a grace in courtesy, a quick awareness, that makes them exceptionally interesting.

Fonteyn--a quite different dancer--has a similar courtesy."

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Edwin Denby, Appendix From the Postscript to Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets (1965)

"I have not reworked these articles. I am astonished that I ever thought Serenade would be better danced in a demi-caractere way. Astonished, too, that the thrill I remember so distinctly of Le Clercq’s climax in La Valse--throwing her head back as she plunges her hand into the black glove--is not mentioned here. Her solitary pacing that made the last minute of Opus 34 so marvelous is mentioned but without naming her."

"During the exquisite understatements of Balanchine’s ballet to Haieff’s Divertimento, I was thinking what a wonderful artist Tanaquil Le Clercq is turning out to be. The old accusation that American dancers are cold and inexpressive no longer holds good. Le Clercq, Hayden and Wilde all have personalities which ‘project’; and technically they are prodigious."

Edwin Denby, At the Champs-Elysees, Paris, 21-7-52

"Western Symphony is an extraordinary work. We expect ballets about the Wild West to have a lot of thigh-slapping and characteristic movements, and, of course, a story. This one, apart from some superficial local colour, is a typical Balanchine ballet, built up symphonically. The score, by Hershy Kay, is a web of familiar popular tunes, the set is a gold-rush town of wooden houses, the dancers are dressed as cowboys and spangled barroom vampires: otherwise Western Symphony is as classical as the Bizet Symphony in C. Melissa Hayden has a bounding, exulting solo: she is a more wonderful artist than ever, gloriously strong and expressive, with all the verve we associate with Russian dancers. Wearing an etherealized Mae West hat, Tanaquil Le Clercq makes a big entry in the last movement and does an amazing diagonal of turning jumps in her spiky spidery style. She is most effective, and so is her partner Jacques d’Amboise, who swings and bounds about, looking frightfully pleased with life, exuding athletic glamour. He is now a star personality, and I hope he can’t sing, otherwise the company will lose him to Broadway. Western Symphony has some of Balanchine’s favourite cavalry charges and counter-charges, and ends with everyone spinning joyously."

"Robbins’s new version of Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d'un fauna was the biggest hit of the season. He seemed to have struck on a new and yet right interpretation of the music, which is sultry and sensual, but dreamlike, as if unsatisfied desires fed the summer afternoon with beauty. The scene is a ballet classroom whose white transparent walls let in the blue sky. The audience is a mirror. Jacques d’Amboise lies sleeping on the floor. When he wakes up he does a few exercises and admires himself. Tanaquil Le Clercq comes in, high-stepping and aloof. They practice a pas de deux, and then subside, overcome by the heat. You watch a thought coming into the boy’s head. He kisses the girl chastely on the cheek. She is as surprised as if the barre had broken out in thorns and blossom. Holding her hand to her wound, she steps gingerly out of the room, leaving the boy to go back to sleep. Robbins’s idea is poetic and subtle, its realization impeccable. The two performers were as imposing as Babilée and Philippart in Le Jeune homme et la mort. I do not agree with French critics who thought the music misinterpreted. There are fauns everywhere, even in the British Museum Reading Room."

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A nice photo used in one of the NYCB promo videos. I can't identify the two women on the left, dining with Balanchine and Le Clercq - it would be nice to know where this photo was taken.

Balanchine_Le_Clercq.png

Edited by pherank

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What a wonderful photo, pherank. Thank you for posting it.

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